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Meghan Markle given telling off by judge as both sides in legal row criticised

Entertainment By Mirror
Meghan Markle is suing Associated Newspapers over its publication of a 'private' letter (Image: Getty Images)

A senior judge has criticised both parties in Meghan Markle's ongoing legal battle against a newspaper company.

Mr Justice Warby said that both sides have been fighting a "tit-for-tat" PR battle outside the High Court courtroom.

Today's decision in the ongoing 10-month legal fight between the duchess and Associated Newspapers was a victory for Meghan, as the judge ruled that the identities of her five friends who spoke to a magazine should remain protected.

But handing down his decision, Mr Justice Warby criticised both the claimant and the defendant.

He wrote: "It is... clear that neither side has, so far, been willing to confine the presentation of its case to the courtroom.

"Both sides have demonstrated an eagerness to play out the merits of their dispute in public, outside the courtroom, and primarily in media reports."

Mr Justice Warby has scolded both parties in the legal battle (Image: Photoshot)

Warning both sides he said: "This will be a judge-alone trial, not a trial by jury.

"But to fight proceedings in court and through litigation PR or sensational reporting at one and the same time is not designed to enhance understanding of the legal process.

"For a party to file and immediately publicise prejudicial and partisan characterisations of the other’s litigation conduct in the media before a hearing certainly does not assist."

He said that the coverage "has selectively highlighted aspects of the defendant’s case and features of the claimant’s case that are novel and interesting to the public.

"The focus is on sensational reporting of information that happens to be contained in the claimant’s statements of case."

Meghan and her father Thomas are now estranged and he has never met grandson Archie (Image: Internet Unknown)

Meghan is suing the publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline over an article which reproduced parts of a "private and confidential" handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 76, in August 2018.

At a preliminary hearing in London last week, Meghan's lawyers applied for the five friends who gave an interview to People magazine to remain anonymous in reports of the proceedings.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Warby said he had concluded that "for the time being at least" the duchess should be granted an order which protects the identities of the five individuals.

In the People article, published in February last year, the friends spoke out against the bullying Meghan said she has faced.

They have only been identified in confidential court documents.

Thomas Markle gave the letter from Meghan to the Mail on Sunday (Image: ITV)

The duchess, 39, says her friends gave the interview without her knowledge, and denies a claim made by ANL that she "caused or permitted" the People article to be published.

At a hearing last week, Meghan's lawyers argued that the friends - referred to as A to E - have a right to anonymity both as confidential journalistic sources and under their own privacy rights.

In a ruling today, Mr Justice Warby said he had concluded that "for the time being at least" the duchess should be granted an injunction which protects the identities of the five individuals.

Meghan wishes to protect the identity of her five friends who spoke to People magazine (Image: PA)

He described the ruling in favour of Meghan and her legal team as an “interim decision”.

ANL won the first skirmish in the legal action on May 1, when Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan's claim, including allegations that the publisher acted "dishonestly" by leaving out certain passages of the letter.

Court papers show Meghan has agreed to pay ANL's Sh9.6 million (£67,888) costs for that hearing in full.

Meghan is suing ANL over five articles in total - two in the MoS and three on MailOnline - which were published in February 2019 and reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her father in August 2018.

Meghan Markle has reportedly agreed to foot a Sh9.6 million legal bill (Image: Getty Images)

The headline on the article read: "Revealed: The letter showing true tragedy of Meghan's rift with a father she says has 'broken her heart into a million pieces'."

The duchess is seeking damages from ANL for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

ANL wholly denies the allegations, particularly the duchess's claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.

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